Staff Editorial

Reynolds' veto shows lack of vision on medical cannabis program

Gov. Kim Reynolds talks with school officials after signing a bill at the Educational Leadership and Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, May 6, 2019.  (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Gov. Kim Reynolds talks with school officials after signing a bill at the Educational Leadership and Support Center in Cedar Rapids on Monday, May 6, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Gov. Kim Reynolds dealt a devastating setback last week to patients living with difficult-to-treat illnesses.

The governor vetoed House File 732, a bipartisan bill to expanded Iowa’s medical cannabis program, which enjoyed widespread support among patients and their advocates.

In a letter attached to the bill, Reynolds said she supported some pieces of the legislation, but she’s opposed to a provision to replace the existing 3-percent cap on tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, with a 25-gram limit per 90-day period. She noted the state Medical Cannabidiol Board endorsed a much lower 4.5-gram limit.

The higher limit “would drastically expand Iowa’s medical CBD program far beyond its original scope of CBD-based treatments and could open the door to significant unintended consequences to the health and safety of Iowans,” Reynolds wrote.

Reynolds’ inaction is frustrating on multiple fronts.

For one, she has abdicated her policymaking responsibilities to an advisory board, which is populated by appointees who are not accountable to the voters and taxpayers of Iowa. Ultimately, it is elected officials’ job to make laws, not Medical Cannabidiol Board members’.

Politicians’ fear of THC — which, nearly everyone agrees, is much safer than pharmaceutical painkillers — is misguided.

Even more discouraging is that Reynolds has staked out a staunchly reactionary position on this and other important issues.

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Throughout the legislative season, the governor remained noncommittal about the prospect of expanding medical marijuana access. Lawmakers and advocates were left guessing about what measures she might be willing to sign.

Other parts of the bill — allowing dispensaries to employ pharmacists, empowering physician assistants and nurse practitioners to recommend cannabis treatment, and establishing data collection and analysis — are uncontroversial, even among many conservative skeptics of medical marijuana.

Sadly, Reynolds’ veto did not discriminate. She threw out the whole bill, even the parts she supports.

If Reynolds is so vehemently opposed to a higher THC limit, she could have articulated as much early in the legislative session. That would have given legislative leaders the opportunity to put forth a more restrained bill, but one that Reynolds would sign.

Instead, Reynolds remained quiet on the issue, and resorted to a last-minute veto. As a result, Iowa will make no progress this year toward helping sick and suffering Iowans who might benefit from easier access to cannabis derivatives.

Most patients agree there is ample room for improvement in Iowa’s heavily restricted medical cannabis program. But where do we go from here?

Iowans are desperate for someone in state government to take leadership. So far, Reynolds has not answered that call.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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